Zona Arqueologica Tlatelolco

Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas, Tlatelolco, Cuauhtémoc, 06900 Ciudad de México, CDMX

In the times of the Aztecs, before the Conquest of Mexico by the Spanish, the Great Tenochtitlán stood proudly on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco, with several surrounding small islands holding smaller populations; man-made bridges connected the islands between each other and to the mainland. The Great Tenochtitlán, actually, shared the island with a neighbor, who lived north of the island; they were the warring, contentious people of Tlatelolco, who were considered Mexica people as well. They were considered a part of the Aztec Triple Alliance, along with Texcoco and Tenochtitlán. During the 2-year Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán, the Mexicas retreated to Tlatelolco and were able to successfully ambush the Spanish from that location, but eventually, and inevitably, they fell as did the entire island to the conquistadors. The people of Tlatelolco eventually accused the people of Tenochtitlán, with whom they had a contentious relationship, of being too soft and blaming them for the fall of the entire island.

The Spanish conquistadors besieged Tlatelolco and laid it to ruins, they destroyed their major temple and built a house of worship of their own beliefs using the same stones from the ruins. 500 years later the site is now a part of Mexico City and it’s the archeological site of Tlatelolco, which is 1 of the 3 cultures that make up the Plaza de las Tres Culturas landmark (“Plaza of the Three Cultures”), the other 2 cultures being the one from the colonial era, and the one from the modern post-Independence Mexico era.

The archeological site has as its centerpiece the Templo Mayor, which is the largest landmark on the site and is a 3 level temple constructed in a similar fashion as the great temple of Tenochtitlán. There’s a temple dedicated to Ehécatl, the god of wind; and also a Tzompantli altar, where the decapitated skulls of their fallen enemies were perforated and connected for full display at this construction, all in veneration of the gods. There are also the “Lovers of Tlatelolco”, a couple from that era that was found buried embracing themselves, they were two of 54 victims from a particularly bloody war in 1473 that was waged between Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlán (some 50 years before the arrival of the Spanish).

There’s a small museum at the site called “El Tecpan” that is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and provides free guided tours in English and Spanish although an appointment has to be scheduled beforehand. Both the archeological site and the museum are free to access.


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